Just 10 short years ago, Gidge Black was driving to Red Dot Gallery in Homewood. It was her first visit, and making something was not even on her radar screen.
“I told myself, you need to do this. You need to just go play.”
She fell in love with it instantly.
“I called my husband and said I felt like I had danced all night with a prince,” she says.
It wasn’t a metaphor that was too fantastic. It was the culmination of several twists and turns in Black’s life over the last 20 years. She has since turned pottery into a successful local business, one that has reunited her with her first love.
A native of Athens, Black, 48, attended the University of North Alabama as a psychology major, but a car accident led to a compound fracture in her ankle that would force her to move back home with her parents.
“I spent a lot of quiet time by myself, and that’s when I realized that my first true love was writing,” she says.
She saw an ad for a correspondence course in children’s literature, and she signed up and began writing short stories. She went back to school and earned her degree in professional writing in 1992.
“I don’t know that I would have made that decision had I not been in that accident,” she said. “I thought, oh my God, this is awesome. This is what really makes me happy.”
After graduating and marrying her husband, Brody, Black abandoned writing and took a job in sales. A few years later, she had her first child, John Thomas (now 19), who was diagnosed with a serious medical condition at eight weeks old.
“He had what is called a neuronal migration defect, which caused a developmental delay,” she said. “He had to have the right hemisphere of his brain removed when he was 2. We were trying everything, from drugs to alternative treatments. So my whole world was immersed in that.”
Black went on to have her second son, Baylor (now 16) and daughter Barker (now 12). As her kids grew older and John’s condition greatly improved, her creative longing resurfaced.
“I started missing my creative side, the part that wanted to play,” she says.
Black began looking up pottery classes online. Any time she had seen people work with clay, she says, she was mesmerized.
“I felt like this would take me there,” she says. “Pottery was like a bridge that would take me back to my first love.”
The class was three hours, once a week. Black says as her skills improved, she wanted to share them with everyone. Within a year, she was doing shows such as the Alabama Clay Market and selling to the Cook Store in Mountain Brook and Alabama Goods in Homewood. She most recently began selling Image of God necklaces and pendants, inspired by a spiritual retreat she attended, at the Neighborhood Brew in Indian Springs. She also maintains a website, gidgeblackpottery.com, as well as a Gidge Black Pottery Facebook page.
Black now looks to the future with confidence, as she sees herself selling to more stores and spending more time with her writing. She has joined a local writing group and plans to eventually publish a spiritual memoir on motherhood, particularly on her journey with John.
“I’m going to keep writing and sharing my words and experiences,” she says. “Writing has always been my little secret. Pottery is what people know me by. But now I’m feeling less and less afraid.”